Mount Nabewari is an impressive 1,273 meters and classified as part of the Tanzawa mountain range in Kanagawa Prefecture. Located just 90 minutes by train from Shinjuku Station, hiking the mountain makes for a perfect day trip for those looking to get out of the city and into some nature. While this hike would be worth it just for the beautiful journey through farmland, across wandering streams and up lush mountainsides, the mountain offers a special treat at the peak. Nabewari Sanso is a small lodge at the top of the mountain that serves a hot and delicious bowls of nabeyaki udon (hot udon noodle soup traditionally served in individual earthenware pots).
The first sign for the trail is located between the small cafe Yamamori Chaya and the greenhouses to the right of it. As you walk past farms and peanut fields, be sure to stop at some of the unmanned vegetable stands. Just drop your coins in the box and take a bag of fresh and cheap vegetables. After a short walk you will see a sign to turn off the main road, and that will be the start of the hike.
The hike isn’t particularly strenuous, but there are some steep and rocky sections where you do have to be careful. Take your time and rest by one of the several streams you will find along the way. Keep an eye out for a wide variety of plants, mushrooms and animals; you can find something beautiful in any season. There are also a lot of deer in the area. If you are lucky, and quiet, you might spot one.
After about an hour of hiking, you will come across a collection of water-filled bottles just as the trail starts to get difficult. These are brought by the owner of the udon shop on top of the mountain. If you are feeling courageous, and helpful, please bring up a bottle or two of water and leave it at the designated location next to the lodge on the summit. The water is used for cleaning and is a big help to the restaurant owner.
Nabewari Sanso and the Summit
Nabewari Sanso is the lodge located at the top of the hill. It has been owned and operated by the same person since 1976. The owner is now 72 years old and he still carries all of the supplies up the mountain by himself. His record weight to carry up the mountain is 114kg and he has carried over 100kg many times. So, when you are carrying up a single three kilogram bottle of water, please keep in mind that a 72-year-old man carries 20 times as much, five days a week.
The journey from the water bottles to the top is just over one hour, and by the time you get to the top you are sure to be hungry. Nabewari Sanso serves its famous nabeyaki udon five days a week with holidays on Monday and Friday. It is a delicious bowl of noodles, egg, tofu and vegetables. Be sure to get there before it sells out. Since the ingredients have to literally be carried up a mountain, the supply is justifiably limited.
After you hurry to get your udon, stay a while and soak in the view. There are benches to relax on where you can spend some time resting before you make your way down. In good weather, the mountain offers a great view of Mount Fuji so be sure to take some photos.
The journey down is much the same as the one up, but there are a few alternate paths you can take that give some variety before ending up at the same bus stop. The trails are well marked at each fork in the road, so just remember the kanji for the Okura Bus Stop and you will have no problems finding your way back.
Overall it is a relatively easy hike provided you aren’t carrying enough udon to supply a restaurant for a day, so please visit and enjoy one of Japan’s more distinctive restaurants. Just be sure to head up early so you don’t miss out!
Mount Nabewari is quite easy and convenient to get to from central Tokyo. If you are feeling luxurious, you can take the Odakyu Line Romancecar from Shinjuku Station to Hadano Station, and then change to the local train for Shibusawa Station. Otherwise, try the Rapid Express from Shinjuku directly to Shibusawa Station. Once you arrive at Shibusawa Station you will need to take the bus to Okura bus stop. It’s the Number 2 located on the North side of the station. It is usually the one with a big line up of hikers waiting to board. Get off at Okura bus stop and take a minute to check out the small information centre and the beautiful park with the suspension bridge stretching over Mizunashi River.